So What Do You Do For A Living, Big Boy?

In Victoria Dahl's Lead Me On, the hero is a demolition expert. How cool is that? There's something about a man who can handle dynamite and blow things up that's just so macho. So--dare I say it? So SEXY. 

This is the first time I've seen a fictional character with that job. Mostly, I see the same jobs, the same careers recycled over and over again. Why do you suppose that is?

A couple of possibilities occur to me.

First, as writer, we often need our characters to have the kind of flexibility that a nine-to-five job doesn't allow. That leads to a lot of characters who are self-employed, but even so, they seem to have the same old jobs. They're never . . . Well, demolition experts. (Be still my heart.)

Another possibility is that we copy what we see in the real world. There's thousands of fascinating jobs out there that we never use. Jobs that were never on the career counselor's radar. It hard to imagine those jobs if you don't know about them.

But even if you do know about them, you probably don't know enough to write a character into one of them with any confidence. Just as I don't know enough about demolition experts to write a character with that job.

This is a problem I have a lot.

So I'm going to try a little experiment. I'm going to start interviewing the people I know who have or have had jobs that aren't on the radar and posting them here. 

Like my friend, Bob, who was a drivers' license examiner for 20 years. (We also get a bonus there because I'm going to have him explain how it works when an examiner goes rogue and sells "fake" IDs.) I also have a friend who's a veterinarian. (Yes, you've seen that vocation used, but there's lots you don't know about being a vet.) And I'll probably kick in the email exchange I had with another writer who wanted details about working as florist. I've got a few other friends with interesting jobs to tap. 

But I know a lot of you out there have had interesting jobs that I've never dreamed of. I've love to hear from you, especially if you'd be willing to share the gruesome details. ;) 

Come. Be my new career counselor. Leave a comment about your job. Or if you're shy, email me at suequint at

NOTE ADDED LATER: I hope y'all are finding this feature useful or at least interesting. The more folks who contribute, the better this will be, so if you've worked an unusual or interesting job and you'd like to tell us about that job, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a post HERE.


  1. I didn't see where this had taken -I am writing a paranormal (living vampire romance novel. The love interest and his father are owners of a cafe/restaurant/bakery catering business on Cape Cod. The protagonist's guardian uncle owns a labor negotiating firm ( also a vampire) . The eventual son in law of love interest and protagonist is a bail bondsman/bounty hunter.

  2. Having the h/h employed in unusual professions can really spice up the storyline. In my WIP, my hero is a former pro-wrestler (yes, like WWE). In a story that remains in my head, my heroine will be an organic farmer/herbalist.

    I can't wait to see the jobs you'll profile. Maybe I'll get some ideas. :)

  3. The protagonist in my new series (The Bogey Mysteries) has what might sound like a normal job, but there is a twist. Chris Cross runs a forties-themed restaurant with his wife, Pamela, and Chris is a dead-ringer for Humphrey Bogart. Between the themed restaurant and his appearance, I have a lot of fun with this series.

    The protagonist in my other series (The Sandi Webster Mysteries) is a young and somewhat naive female P.I. While the job isn't new, the storylines are interesting.

  4. Very interesting post, Suzie. I write middle-grade fiction, so I usually give my adult characters common jobs. But in my current manuscript, the main character's uncle is a mortician, and she and her siblings are forced to live with him in his funeral home.

  5. Morticians. Pro-wrestlers. Such cool jobs. Do y'all know people who work in these professions? If not, how are you managing to write them with confidence?

  6. In my novels, I've created a mother who was an international Red Cross worker, and a dad who was a legal editor.
    The weirdest real life job I ever had, was being a foreman (forewoman) in a factory that manufactured solar-heated swimming pool covers! Betcha can't top that for strange!

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  8. I don't know, Catherine. Is a purchasing agent at a torpedo factory stranger than a forewoman in a solar-heated swimming pool cover plant? ;) Maybe they're about even.

  9. I didn't realize how interesting my first job was until I was much older. I took a job at a bank thinking I'd be trained for the teller line. Instead I was put on the new business desk. Most of the customers were the usual open/close, add a signature, etc., but once I had to open accounts for the 21 year old daughter of a couple who died in a plane crash. She was suddenly the head of the family, with two younger siblings to care for. She sat at my desk looking very composed and very mature in her black suit, but as she signed the cards I saw her hands shake, and I heard the halted breathing that held back the tears.

    When I had to write the scenes of my novel that took place after the hit & run death of my main character's mother, I thought back to that girl.

    Ginger B.

  10. It sounds like you had a writer's eye even back then, Ginger. What a moving picture that girl portrays. You can't help have your heart go out to her.

  11. 'Is a purchasing agent at a torpedo factory stranger than a forewoman in a solar-heated swimming pool cover plant?'


  12. I've had a wide variety of jobs. I was a hospital porter in a veteran's psychiatric ward. I was a fish room manager, which means I knew most everything you would need to set up and run an aquarium. I worked in a standardbred horse breeding farm where I learned a lot about horses. I worked for the US Census in 1980 and I spent nearly 15 years working with computers, from technician to network engineer. I was also an artist for many years. I'm also an amateur bird watcher and biologist.

  13. It's hard to have enough time for adventures when your character's tied to a desk job for 8 or so hours each day. But, I agree, unusual jobs do give lots of interest to the story. Great post!

  14. Demolitions expert...way cool. Very thoughful post. I'll have to reconsider some of my characters' occcupations.

  15. I've been a carhop; a house sitter; a school janitor; a short order cook; a clerk for a store, a deli, engineers, doctors, and lawyers, and a private detective (not all at the same time); a camp director; a childcare provider; and lastly, a writing instructor at the local college. That job lasted 7 years, then I taught privately after that.

    Pat Marinelli

  16. I'm writing a (non-PI) mystery and wanted my protagonist to do something that appealed to the senses so I could break up the cerebral, puzzle-solving stick. Having been a musician in my fast receding youth, that's the job I gave him, and music plays an cohesive role in the story.

  17. So many interesting career paths. I can't wait to dig into this. Thanks to everyone who commented. This is going to be such fun.

  18. No idea if you need any of these but I've done all the following for many at various ages - sold shoes/wool/wedding dress fabric/sweets & papers, litter-picked, run a craft stall at a market, made beaded jewellery, picked grapes in France, run a database for a homeless charity, tech-support and computer administration for a large investment house (ie. making sure the dealers had the right info to make the trades), writing columns for print and online media, reviewed books & restaurants & websites, edited non-fiction books for Scouts Ireland, taken the Census, conducted social survey interviews in people's homes&schools, and registered electors.

    In doing the last few I meet people that fostered, engraved the plant labels at the Botanical Gardens (yep, that's 1 person in 3.5 million), made stained-glass-windows, worked as sommelliers, etc. There are lots of strange jobs out there.

    I've also been involved in the ICA (like the Women's Institute), grow organic fruit, veg, and herbs, and craft pretty much any type of art/craft you can imagine. My DH is involved with lots of wood-related crafts so I can help on those too.

  19. Awesome idea. Demolition expert...mmm sexy!

    I've worked as an autobody mechanic, a courier, a waitress, a professional psychic, and now I'm learning to be a farmer. What fun!

    The CRITTER Project and Naked Without A Pen

    PS: Drat! I can't figure out how to follow your blog - I don't have facebook!

  20. Hello,
    If you go to military dot com, you may find someone to give you some help if you step into the message boards.

    As a kid I sold newspapers, I was active duty in the US Navy for five years as a dental tech and a oral surgery assistant. In the reserves I was attached to an EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) unit, but I was too chicken to do that. LOL. My job was side scan sonar- we looked for downed helicopters and ordinance under the water.

    Currently I'm a flight attendant for a major airline.
    I'm married to a retired marine and we were out at dinner, and I'm tossing out questions on which type of small artillery would be best if I wanted to um take out some people inside a house from a safe distance. I turned my head and this poor elderly couple were watching us like they were considering calling Homeland Security.


  21. LOL! I can so picture that couple wanting to call Homeland Security. Being a writer leads one into such odd places and topics.